Current Events and Thoughts About Genitals

I don’t know about you, but there are two topics blowing up my Facebook feed today. The first is Josh Duggar’s resignation from his position with the Family Research Council, a conservative lobbying group, and TLC’s decision to pull the show “19 Kids and Counting” from their lineup. These actions are in response to reports that Duggar son Josh allegedly molested five girls (some of whom allegedly may have been his sisters). Josh was accused of allegedly fondling the girls’ breasts and their genitals without consent. He was around age fourteen at the time of the alleged incidents, which occurred over a decade ago. As far as I can tell from what I have read, there was some 2006 police report related to the incident(s) that has recently been leaked. Reportedly Josh was tried in at least one case but was never convicted of anything, nor did he receive any formal punishment from the justice system for these alleged incidents, his parents handled it on their own.

The second news story is that of Heather Hironimus, a Florida mother who has been in jail since May 14th for violating a court order to have her four year-old son circumcised. In addition she was in violation of the custody agreement with the boy’s father when she allegedly took refuge with her son for months at a woman’s shelter to avoid arrest and to prevent what she believed to be a medically and religiously unnecessary, and potentially harmful, elective surgery upon her son’s genitals. Ms. Hironimus has added that her son is fearful of the procedure and does not want to have the surgery on his penis. Earlier today Ms. Hironimus tearfully signed the consent form for the circumcision in the court room in hopes of hastening her release, although she remains in jail at this time.

I see no value at this moment in judging the right or wrong of the details and nuances of either of these cases or the individuals involved. I will leave it to each of you to have your own feelings and reactions. That said, I cannot help but be struck by the former story whose entire “shock value” is predicated on the understanding that one is in clear violation if they manipulate the genitals of another without their consent. In addition, handling of the incidents and any consequences to the alleged perpetrator were left to the perpetrator’s parents to determine; the legal system stayed out of all of that.

In the latter case we see a court ordering the removal of a portion of a boy’s genitals reportedly against the boy’s wishes and without the freely given consent of one of the boy’s parents, simply because the other parent wishes it to be so. This is assuming that there are in fact no compelling medical or religious grounds for the genital alteration as stated in the reports. Moreover, in this case the parent withholding consent, and withholding the child to prevent said genital manipulation has been jailed as a consequence of her stance.

I am having a tough time reconciling these views about genitals and how they should be handled or protected by others when their owners have not or cannot give consent with regard to their manipulation. I am finding the legal response in the two cases to be especially at odds. What do you think?

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Rosemary Gladstar Herbalism Webinar Available Free Online Through Sunday

Were you able to catch the live LerningHerbs webinar yesterday with legendary herbalist Rosemary Gladstar? The response was tremendous and apparently overwhelmed the system, causing technical difficulties for many (myself included). LearningHerbs has graciously made the recorded webinar available online free through Sunday. It includes the full 90-minute webinar, the downloadable recipes for fire cider, kava chai, and more provided by Rosemary, and also announces the chance to register for the New England Womens Herbal Conference using the code WEBINAR for special bonus gifts and opportunities, the most exciting being a small group herb walk with Rosemary at the conference. See the video for more details about the bonus gifts and registering. This special code is also good through Sunday.

So if you missed out yesterday, here’s your second chance. If you were able to catch yesterday’s webinar, what did you think?

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Cancer, Self-Care, and Gratitude

I don’t like asking for help. It is a quality that I am afraid that I have passed along to my children. In all honesty it’s really less about asking for help that I don’t like, it’s the needing help altogether. Logically I know that it is natural to need help with things in life, both large and small. Emotionally however, I do not like to show weakness or need. I want to be able to take care of myself. My parents say that one of my favorite phrases as a child was, “Me do it!” I think that I’m still a “Me do it!” girl at heart.

When I received my cancer diagnosis four-plus years ago, I had to surrender to the idea that I was going to need help. I was going to need help for myself and I was going to need help for my family to do all of the things that I normally did for us that I would no longer be able to accomplish on my own. One of the greatest immediate challenges was being able to go for my daily radiation treatments. They would only be for a short while each morning, but I needed time to get to and from the hospital, to change into a hospital gown, and assume my contorted position on the machine to be shot full of targeted, cancer-blasting radiation. Asher was still an infant at the time and he was not invited to join me in the “mommy microwave” for my five weeks of daily treatments. I didn’t have anyone to help me with childcare. We had never had the resources for a sitter so I had nobody to call. We had used up a lot of our community goodwill less than a year prior when I had spent 166 days on bed rest trying to sustain Asher’s pregnancy. Rich worked from home a lot at that time when he wasn’t traveling for his job, but he was always on seemingly endless conference calls and otherwise working to support us. Managing the needs of a ten month-old while mama was getting zapped daily wasn’t going to be easy for him to take on during his work day. Additionally, we were concerned about the impact of our need for his time on his job security, especially so close on the heels of my extended bed rest stint. His employment was our only source of income and health insurance.

I tried to explore potential resources for child care: could the hospital provide a volunteer to meet me at the cancer center and just hang out with Asher in the waiting room while I spent my 15-20 minutes in treatment each morning? Were the hospital social workers aware of any social service agencies who could provide short-term child care to allow parents access to treatment? Was there any child care available on-site at the hospital? I explored every suggestion or lead. I even recall one conversation in which I was told that if I had breast cancer then there might be some resource available. My somewhat desperate response was, “Well, I have breasts, and I have cancer. Is there any way somebody could help hold my baby so that I can get radiation now?” It was new territory for me. I had gone from avoiding asking for help to begging for it, and I wasn’t getting very far.

I was never able to secure the childcare needed to make my radiation appointments. Instead I did my best to schedule treatments during Asher’s morning nap and Rich suspended work travel for the five weeks, working from home to help in a pinch if Asher woke up before I could scoot back. Despite my childcare assistance failing, I made a commitment that I was going to take advantage of the help that was available to me. I was going to pick up the phone and ask for what I needed, and sometimes I might get it. Specifically, I decided that during the course of my radiation treatments through my surgery date I would do at least one thing each week that would support my health and healing in a way that felt good both physically and spiritually since treatment did not feel good in either of those domains. I was acknowledging my physical and emotional vulnerability and trying to honor it.

Luckily for me, I lived within reasonably close proximity of two cancer support centers and there were additional support and wellness services offered through the hospital cancer center where I went for my daily radiation. Through these resources I was able to schedule no-cost appointments for a range of services such as massage, Reiki, Healing Touch, reflexology, and more. I really wasn’t picky. Anything that allowed me to feel nurtured or cared for helped to fortify my spirit and feel supported in my fight. In addition, these services were provided by volunteers, some of whom were cancer survivors themselves. In those difficult days of treatment when I was kissing my infant son goodbye and trying to imagine how long I could be a healthy and well mama to him and his sisters, it was very helpful for me to see and speak to survivors, especially long-term survivors.

I did a really good job of my once a week appointments through the course of my radiation and up until my surgery. Then my focus shifted to physical therapy, twice a week at first, and then once weekly for 8 months to address pain and help me regain my ability to stand, walk, and increase strength and range of motion to compensate for the quadriceps muscle that had been removed from my leg. Other family needs required my attention as well. Asher in particular needed a lot of support at the time. I had weaned him when I started treatments and quickly discovered significant problems around his ability to eat. In addition we were involved in follow-up care for a surgery that he had to address a birth defect. We were navigating the Early Intervention system, working through a lot of evaluations and home visits, scheduling therapies and trying to rally the support necessary to meet his nutrition needs. My self-care dropped off. I picked it up again later for a bit with a weekend “cancer yoga” class, but that too fell by the wayside when demands became great for me to work over the course of a year or two to renovate our home so that we could sell it and move to an area that would better meet the needs of our family. Our budget was strictly “DIY if at all possible” so I was burning the midnight oil and weekends laying flooring, sewing curtains, painting walls and ceilings, refinishing cabinetry, replacing light fixtures, combing home improvement resale shops, Craigslist, and thrift stores, and learning my way around impressive power tools that I borrowed from my father. In the triaging of our life, I moved myself down the list.

So remember back when I said that this blog is self-care for me? Well, it is in the sense that it allows me a creative outlet and keeps me in a conversation about my interests. It also lets me hear my own voice and evaluate what I am saying sometimes. I recently read myself writing “I may never get to that ‘someday’ list that I always put my own needs on. I keep saying that I will join a gym again or start attending yoga classes at the cancer wellness center again, or make time to spend with friends, but somehow months go by and it just doesn’t happen.” It didn’t sit well with me when I saw those words in black and white. It showed me that I am not having integrity with my commitments. I am committed to treating myself as important; to supporting my physical, mental, and emotional health to live a long life of wellness. I cannot take care of my children if I die an early death that I contribute to from my own neglect. I don’t want “Me do it!” attached to that outcome.

I called the cancer support center closest to where we are now living. I signed up for a weekly “cancer yoga” class. It is a uncomfortable for me. I have to work through the conversations about whether I deserve to be there (I’m not in treatment anymore and haven’t been for a long time); how do I fit in (I am always the youngest usually by decades, can I relate to these people? Can they relate to how cancer has impacted my life?); what am I not getting done while there (I should be getting groceries so that the kids have food for lunches. I need to figure out dinner for tonight. Do I need to skip out on the ending meditation to pick Asher up from school on time?, etc.) I’m doing it anyway though. I try to clear my mind. When thoughts of questioning or doubt creep in I try to picture all of the people who have donated time or money to cancer research and to cancer support agencies. They want me to be okay. They want me to live a long, healthy life and to be able to care for my children. I focus my energy and gratitude toward them. I receive their support. I honor their personal struggles and the loved ones who they may have lost to cancer; who may have inspired the generosity that allowed me to have this moment of nurturing. Lunches and dinner will work themselves out. Asher won’t be stranded at preschool. I am grateful for this day. I am grateful for this moment. I am grateful for this support. “We do it.”

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Barganic Alert: Free LearningHerbs Webinar with Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar This Thursday

Do you remember a little while back when I posted about the free webinar with Aviva Romm, M.D. that was hosted by Learning Herbs? In the discussion following that webinar they mentioned that the next one would feature Rosemary Gladstar, founder of the oldest running herb school in the U.S., noted author, and considered by many to be the “godmother of American Herbalism.”

The title of the talk is “Preserving Herbal Traditions: Stewardship, Remedies & Legacy” and will focus on traditional herbalism and how it translates to today. Of interest will be discussion about the ethics of wildcrafting, how to stop companies from attempting to trademark traditional herbal recipes (I suspect reference to a recent attempt to trademark fire cider that created an uproar in the herbalism community,) and how to bring an herbalism tradition into your home.

The webinar will take place this Thursday, May 21st at 5:30pm PST, 8:30pm EST. The webinar is free but space is limited. To register click here. I learned so much and was very inspired by the last LearningHerbs webinar. I am excited to listen in for this one as well. I hope to see you there!

Make sure that you don’t miss out on any Barganic Alerts, these babies tend to be time-limited. Subscribe to Crunchyparent.com to always be the first to know!

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Seed Saving: What Seed Can Be Saved, How, and Why?

heirloom and OP tomatoes

I have really loved to grow food for as long as I can remember. Flowers and medicinal plants have claimed a place in my gardening heart in more recent years, but food is where it all began. As a young child, I remember that my dad always planted a summer vegetable garden in addition to the grape vines that wound their way up the fences amidst the raspberries and blackberries, and the strawberries that claimed their spot at the foot of the apple and pear trees. He would proudly display a handful of radishes or carrots and proclaim with pride, “Look what G-d and I made!” My Papa (his dad) was a gardener too, growing food his whole life. In his retirement he even coordinated a community garden and organized the donation of their bounty to local food pantries.

I am happy to carry on this tradition of growing food for my family and to share with others. My favorite food of all to grow is a tomato. In particular, I love to grow heirloom and open pollinated tomatoes. They tend to represent a seemingly endless array of shapes, sizes, colors, and flavor profiles. I think that they are beautiful and delicious. They also appeal to my drive to be sustainable and to perpetuate biodiversity in our food because open pollinated and heirloom seeds allow for the grower to harvest seed from the choicest fruit and save it to grow the same variety of plant year after year.

I know that in the weeks ahead gardeners from all around will be selecting and hardening off their plants or getting them in the ground. It is a bit late to be staring your own plants from seed this year, but if you want to plan ahead with the option of saving seed and starting your own plants next season, be mindful when choosing this year’s plants or seed. Moreover, if you are already growing heirloom or open pollinated plants, take advantage of the opportunity to save seed from your favorites to grow again in the future.

For those unfamiliar with the distinctions among variety types, I’ll break it down:

A hybrid plant is a variety that has been created to have a number of desired characteristics. In the case of a tomato for instance that could be an early ripening, low acid, cherry size, orange, and sweet variety. This hybridized tomato is the evolution of cross-breeding plants with some of the desired characteristics and selecting out the resulting “baby” plants that come closer to the intended end product. The variety mixing and tweaking goes on until the desired parent plants can be identified and stabilized so that when cross-bred will create the ultimate “blended” tomato. This tomato is their first generation “ideal” offspring and is labeled the F1 hybrid. However, hybrid tomatoes have seed that is unstable. That is to say that if you save and grow seed from this F1 fruit, the seeds will revert back in different and unpredictable ways to earlier generations, perhaps yielding an early ripening large red tomato with watery flavor; a late ripening, sweet, red cherry tomato; and a low acid, early ripening, medium-sized, yellow tomato. Moreover, second generation hybridized seeds also tend to produce less vigorous and more sickly plants.

An open pollinated (OP) plant means that the plant is pollinated by natural means such as insects, birds, or wind carrying pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers, rather than being a manipulated cross like a hybrid. As it happens, tomatoes are self-fertile and generally will be fertilized and set fruit without interference from other tomato plant varieties, but it could happen on occasion. If the blossom was to be fertilized from the pollen of a different open-pollinated tomato variety, the fruit would produce seed that would grow into a new and different variety altogether (in essence, an accidental hybrid). This fact made me wonder how an OP keeps from becoming a hybrid. Generally speaking, these tomato varieties have become stabilized over time by selecting out generation after generation of plant that grows stable from the seed. The commonly held belief is that after 4-5 generations of growing seed from a fruit and saving seed only from those plants of each generation that replicate the initial plant, the variety is now stable and will yield the same tomato from generation to generation assuming that it is not accidentally fertilized by a different variety. Because these plants are technically open-pollinated, they can yield seed that is a cross between the initial variety and another open pollinated tomato plant should an errant breeze or helpful bee carry over pollen from another plant before the flowers have pollinated by their own fertile selves. In an effort to ensure seed that is true to the variety, a grower would want to either isolate the plant a prescribed distance from other tomato varieties, or (more practical for the home grower) bag the flower blossoms to keep the fruit and seed true to the variety.

An heirloom plant is by definition an open-pollinated variety. The distinction however is that an heirloom variety is one that that has existed and handed down through families for years (I have seen definitions ranging from 50-100 years as the minimum requirement, but suffice it to say it would be an old variety). These tomatoes have become stabilized by years of selecting out the plants that represent the variety and handing these seeds down time and again, as with OP seeds. So in short, all heirlooms varieties are open-pollinated, but not all open pollinated varieties have earned the distinction of becoming heirlooms. If they stand the test of time and familial preference, they may become the heirlooms of the future.

In summary, a hybrid is a tomato that has been intentionally bred from crossing other varieties. It is unstable across generations so only first generation (F1) seeds should be used. Saved seeds from hybrids will not grow true. An open pollinated (OP) tomato is stable assuming that it does not accidentally become cross pollinated by another variety. This can be avoided by distancing plants or bagging blossoms. An heirloom is an OP variety that has been handed down from generation to generation for a period of 50-100 years or more and is still being grown today. Seed from OP or heirloom varieties can be saved and should grow true to variety except in the rare case of accidental cross pollinating.

So, now that you know that you can save seed from heirloom and OP tomato plants, you just need to know how to do it. The good news is that it is very easy. All that is required is the liberation of the seed from its protective gel sac and then thoroughly drying the seed before storing so that it doesn’t mildew.

tomato seeds in their protective gel sacs

tomato seeds in their protective gel sacs

The second part is easy (just lay out flat and allow to dry). The first part is pretty simple too provided that you have a jar and a few days to allow the seeds to ferment in the tomato’s juice. Allow me to demonstrate in the handy video below.

What are some of your favorite tomato varieties? Why do you enjoy growing and eating them?

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Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Recipe: Gluten, Dairy, and Nut Free (with Superfood Bonus)

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread-gluten, dairy, and nut free with hemp seeds

We’re celebrating another birthday around here. When asked what she wanted for breakfast on her birthday, Alina said that she wanted banana bread. Since I had a bunch of bananas on my kitchen counter growing ever-browner and squishier, I was all too happy to oblige. What with it being a birthday and all, chocolate chips seemed to be an appropriate addition. I have even made this recipe into 2 round pans in the past and frosted it as a layer cake for a child’s birthday (put chocolate chips in it and frosting on it, and it’s cake to me).

I like this recipe because it uses a lot of bananas, which lend a great deal of flavor, sweetness, and moisture to the recipe. As a result, you can scale back the sugar and oil if you desire and depending on your other plans (e.g., with chocolate chips and frosting, I’d cut back on the sugar. If you add seeds or nuts you might want to pull back on the oil). I add hemp seeds to all of my quick breads because they boost the protein, fiber, and nuttiness and make me feel mildly less guilty when I gobble a second piece.

*brown sugar not pictured because I forgot it in the photo*

*brown sugar not pictured because I forgot it in the photo*

Makes 1 9×5 inch loaf or approximately 2 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients:

2 cups 3, 2, 1 Flour Mix! or other gluten free flour blend
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. grape seed or coconut oil or a blend of the two.
2/3 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/3 c. mashed overripe banana (approximately 5-6 large bananas)
2/3 c. semi sweet chocolate chips (dairy free; technically optional)
1/2 c. hemp seeds (this brand is my favorite; also optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Banana bread-dry ingredients

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir to combine.

Banana Bread-oil and sugar mixing

3. Mix together oil and sugar.

banana bread adding eggs and bananas

Add eggs and mashed banana, mixing until well blended.

banana bread-adding chocolate and hemp

4. Add flour mixture, chocolate chips, and hemp seeds to banana mixture.

Banana bread-mix to moisten

Mix to just moisten.

banana bread-ready to bake

Pour batter into prepared pan. If possible, try to use one that’s been in your mother’s kitchen since 1972. If you’re feeling especially festive, sprinkle top center of loaf with a handful of extra chocolate chips.

5. Bake in preheated for 65-75 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (loaf is very dense and takes a while to cook through). Muffins will take closer to 30 minutes to cook through.

Banana bread fresh from the oven

6. Cool and enjoy!

This recipe also freezes well. I tend to make them as muffins and then freeze them to give to the kids as treats or as snacks in their lunch boxes.

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Embracing Different

Being a parent is a challenge that defies description. We want to teach our children to embody our values and behave in way that makes us proud. We send them off into the world and hope that they treat others kindly and that they too are treated with kindness by others. We hold our breath and pray that they will be okay. They are smart and we cannot keep them sheltered forever. They see the world around them and figure out what is perceived as “normal” and what is not. They assess how they fit and try to hide the parts of themselves that feel unacceptably different. Shame and stress and secrets trouble our beautiful children in a world where we wish that all aspects of them could be understood and appreciated. They are our children. They are our hearts. We see the struggle and the desire to belong and the purity of spirit that is sometimes buried deep beneath the angst and anger and confusion of being and becoming mature forms of their child selves; wanting to fit it, accepting that they may not, and hopefully embracing it.

The beautiful young man below is owning it. As an eighth grade student in one of our community middle schools, he displayed tremendous courage and laid the gauntlet down for his peers to embrace different in themselves and others; to behave in a way that makes themselves, their parents, and society as a whole proud. His parents wish for his message to be shared, and I am honored to do so. Enjoy.

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Barganic Alert: Aviva Romm Webinar in Review and More Great Herbalism Freebies!

Were you able to catch the free LearningHerbs webinar “Your Herbal Comfort Zone: 9 Simple & Safe Remedies for Kids” with Dr. Aviva Romm that I posted about earlier in the week? I really enjoyed learning from Dr. Romm. I felt very validated that among her most highly recommended remedies was Umcka, a product that our family has used for many years. I also learned a great deal from the lengthy Q&A that followed with herbalist Rosalee De La Foret and John Gallagher, the co-founder of LearningHerbs.

Just in case you missed out, I wanted to highlight some of the upcoming events and resources that were mentioned during the chat that followed Dr. Romm’s presentation. First, if you weren’t able to hear Dr. Romm speak, or if you just want to have more information from her on-hand to reference as needed, you can go to her website and enter your email in the pink box along the right side of the page for a download of her free eBook “Herbal Medicines for Kids.” In addition, Rosalee De La Foret offers a free eBook download “Top 3 Herbs for Your Health” if you sign up for her newsletter. Other listeners of the webinar mentioned during the Q&A that Susan Weed, renown herbalist and author of books such as “Healing Wise” and “Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year” is currently offering her online course “Nourishing Herbal Infusions-Drink Your Way to Health the Wise Woman Way” for free (regularly $150). You can register for the course here. John Gallagher of LearningHerbs stated that he will likely be posting the video of the Dr. Romm webinar and Q&A online at a later date for those who missed it. When that happens, I will pass along the link. Lastly, John mentioned that the next free LearningHerbs webinar (date TBA) will be with legendary herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. I for one, cannot wait.

Make sure that you don’t miss out on any Barganic Alerts, these babies tend to be time-limited. Subscribe to Crunchyparent.com to always be the first to know

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Mindfulness Box Subscription Box Unboxing and Review-May 2015

Mindfulness Box is a recently launched subscription service aimed at providing simple reminders and inspiring new, conscientious goods sure to encourage living more deeply in the moment. This lifestyle box includes holistic and homeopathic, essential oil, and mineral based health care products, handcrafted jewelry, delicious biodynamic treats, natural minerals/crystals and more. Each box contains 4-5 items accompanied with guided dialog to enrich the recipient’s journey to balance and inner peace. Boxes cost $29 per month, which includes shipping, and are less with multi-month subscriptions. Currently Mindfulness Box is offering a promotion for 15% off and a free gift with the code MOTHER. Orders must be placed by May 3rd for delivery in time for Mother’s Day. I recently took advantage of the code, which took 15% off my entire multi-month subscription, bringing my individual box price down to $23.23.

In honor of the May box’s Mother’s Day vibe my children joined me for the complete video unboxing shown here. It made me a little less mindful (and thus more prone to minor mistakes, such as repeatedly misidentifying the free gift) but it was livelier and fun, which is part of being a mom too. If you want to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

I should start with my first impression, and that was that the box was packaged with extreme care. Not only was the presentation happy with the smiling Mindfulness Box logo image, but the items were each individually wrapped with a card explaining their use and connecting them to mindfulness and creating calm moments and positive energy as part of a healthy life practice. I will say that I would have preferred the individual baggies being something more Earth-friendly than plastic since there were a lot of them, but the overall care and sentiment were appreciated.

Mindfulness Box Welcome notes

I found that the personal, handwritten note conveyed the care and intention of the individual packaging the box. As I mentioned in the video, I genuinely appreciated seeing my name spelled correctly on the front of the card. That is extremely rare for me and was a level of detail that I noticed. The enclosure card for the overall box reiterated the message encouraging the recipient to carve out moments for personal meditation and reflection, linking the practice to one of the enclosed items.

Mindfulness Box tea and wood

The box included a stick of Palo Santo (approximate value $0.75), which the enclosure card explained is a 100% sustainable and natural wood that grows on the coast of South America. Moreover, this particular stick was wild crafted and sustainably harvested by a family who has planted over 30,000 trees back into their area. The card suggested many ways to use the wood from brewing it as a tea to burning it and using it similarly to a smudge stick to clear areas. I burned a portion of it while working on this post, and Rich was so struck by the unique scent when he entered the room that he closed his eyes and took a deep blissful breath, which alone may have been worth the price of the box. I don’t know the exact source of Mindfulness Box’s Palo Santo, but I based the value on these ones of similar description that I found on Amazon, right before I ordered more.

In addition, as part of my free gift for using the MOTHER code when ordering, the box included two bags of Yogi Tea “Relaxed Mind” (value $0.50).

Mindfulness Box chocolates and crystals

Another part of my free gift, was a precious bar of ZenBunni chocolate in “Lost Salt of Atlantis” (value $2.00). The box also included two additional bars in “Original Topanga” and “Kathmandu Chai” (value $5.00 total). These bars of artisanal chocolates are very tiny (approximately 1 inch by 2 inches) and are clearly meant to be savored and appreciated. The bars are free of gluten, dairy, soy, and refined sugars and are made from certified biodynamic, organic, and wild foraged ingredients. I was familiar with biodynamic farming practices because biodynamic farming and Waldorf education, which my children all attended for some period of time, were both founded by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. We had also been members of a biodynamic CSA farm for six years. For those who are unfamiliar with biodynamic growing practices, ZenBunni offers this explanation.

The box also included two small stones, one of which was packaged with my free gift of teas and chocolate (value unknown).

Mindfulness Box EO

Aura Cacia essential oil in Chill Pill (value $10.99) is a blend of sweet orange, lavender, patchouli, peppermint, sweet basil, and Roman chamomile essential oils meant to aid with relaxation. Midnfulness Box also included an enclosure from Aura Cacia with information about how much of the essential oil to use in a number of suggested applications.

Mindfulness Box necklace

This Lael Sunrise Jewelry handmade, faceted, rose quartz necklace is the item that I kept mistakenly referring to as the free gift in the video. It is not the free gift, this lovely item was included in every box and was packaged in a small jewelry box, perfect for gifting. The handcrafted necklace on a 14-karat gold-filled chain is meant to resonate with the heart chakra. I think that it looks delicate and beautiful on, and I have been enjoying wearing it. This item can be purchased directly from Mindfulness Box (value $32.00).

Mindfulness Box cards

Mindfulness Box also included this set of five notecards and envelopes. The notecards feature quotes from Zen Buddhist poet Thich Nhat Hanh (value $12.00). I look forward to using them as gift enclosures, “just because” notes for friends, or as an extension of journaling as suggested by Mindfulness Box. These cards are seemingly another Mindfulness Box exclusive.

Mindfulness Box complete

Overall, I was very pleased with my first Mindfulness Box. At first glance, I wasn’t sure how the value would stack up against the purchase price, but my best estimates would place the value of the box at around $60.74, which does not include my free gift with purchase or the small stone whose value I could not estimate. My absolute favorite discovery in the box is the Palo Santo stick, despite being a low value item in terms of cost. Moreover, I am incredibly impressed with the quality and craftsmanship of the items included in the box, and the overall curation. I think that Mindfulness Box remains very true to their stated mission and demographic, and will be especially appreciated by a like-minded consumer. I am excited to receive my next box to see how this subscription continues to evolve.

If you would like to see my most recent listing of “crunchy-friendly” subscription boxes, you can find that here. To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here on the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos, please let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe!

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Being Attached in a Detatched World Revisited

Eight years ago I wrote a post on this here blog in it’s pre-system-crashed-everything-deleted version about being invited to stand up in a close friend’s wedding halfway across the country. At the time, Alina was eight months-old and she was exclusively breastfed. Moreover, despite ultimately being the longest-standing and most committed nursling of my three children, she also was the most challenging baby with whom to establish a comfortable nursing relationship, and she was never willing or able to take breast milk that had been expressed. Never. Not once. Not even a little bit. Of course, this meant that if I was going to be flying over a thousand miles and standing up for my friend of thirty-plus years, Alina was going to be joining me.

For a variety of reasons, not the least of which being financial, Rich and Eva were staying home and I was heading out on this journey alone with my little babe. The reception was adults only, so this also meant that I would need to hire some unknown babysitter to stay in the hotel room with Alina while I shuttled back and forth between the room and the reception downstairs throughout the night (half of you are aghast at this notion). It probably goes without saying that this sweet baby who refused to take a bottle also had limited experience with babysitters, and by that I mean that she had none (half of you are aghast at this notion). I was a stay-at-home mama and she was a stay-at-home baby, so we’d pretty much been a matched set up to that point.

It didn’t go well. Alina cried and cried the entire time that I was away from the room. She refused to sleep and was generally miserable. When I finally returned to the room for the night, hours ahead of the other guests, the babysitter handed her off to me sheepishly and in her broken English informed me, “She is not good baby” before making her exit. I wrestled with that declaration for a while. It really rubbed me the wrong way because she absolutely was a good baby. She was smiley and friendly, with bright shining eyes and a clear ability to communicate her needs and desires. When she was upset, she let you know why, and when you met those needs, she was mollified and content. She wanted to be with her mama. She was attached to me and it was deeply unsettling to her to be in a strange place with a strange person and without her touchstone. She was a good baby, but the idea of an eight month-old baby being so firmly attached to her mother that she could not be left home for a weekend of travel or with a babysitter for a night of adult-only celebration seemed to be generally frowned-upon and viewed as dysfunctional.

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Now, I’ve mentioned here a bunch of times that I am actively trying to make self-care a higher priority in my life, basically because I am really horrible at it. Like many parents I am always so focused on my kids’ seemingly more immediate and important needs, and day after day runs out of hours before I dig out from under all of the kid stuff and remember that there is another person here with needs of her own. My cancer diagnosis four years ago was the Universe grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me with a very stern lecture about putting on my own oxygen mask first. It was my wake-up call that I can’t habitually neglect myself in the name of good parenting because that isn’t being a good parent (or a good human) and I may never get to that “someday” list that I always put my own needs on. I keep saying that I will join a gym again or start attending yoga classes at the cancer wellness center again, or make time to spend with friends, but somehow months go by and it just doesn’t happen. So, I decided that until I get better at the routine self-care I will go for the occasional grand gesture; a carpe diem experience every now and again to give myself a shot in the arm.

In celebration of my recent birthday, I planned a grand gesture. I had seen a highly esteemed herbalist offering a small-group, four-day class on essential oil making and learning about medicinal plants of the Southwest. It would include herbal walks, wildcrafting, and hands-on workshops and demonstrations in and around a secluded hot springs campground. The class was to be held in Arizona and I would be joined by a good friend of mine who is crunchy-oriented as well. It would be an experience unlike any that I had ever had; the first “girl” trip with a friend that I have taken since college. I was amazed and excited as it started to come together as a reality.

As my reality began to come together my children began to voice their upset about me leaving. The kids are used to Rich being out of town for work (they don’t like it, but they are used to it). The idea of me not being home is a whole different matter altogether. It just doesn’t fit with their experience of of the world, and they were really struggling.

Alina was once again shaken and insecure to know that I would not be here. We talked about the trip a lot. Rich would be taking time off of work to be home during the school days to shuttle kids to and from school and appointments, to make dinner, to tuck them into bed. My parents would be home to help as needed. I would be leaving on a Friday morning and retuning on Tuesday afternoon, so technically there would only be three days when we would not see each other. She wasn’t moved by my efforts to comfort her. She alternated between desperate, angry, and just plain sad in the days working up to the trip. The morning I was set to go I tiptoed into the girls’ room at 6:15 am to kiss Alina and Eva goodbye before jumping in the cab. I found Alina lying in her bed looking forlorn with tears streaming down her cheeks. She wanted to be with her mama, or at least know that her mama would be home whenever she checked in throughout her days of school and playing.

As I rode in the cab to the airport my heart was heavy having left such a sad girl behind. Alina is still a happy girl with bright, shining eyes. She is smiley and friendly, thoughtful and very kind and nurturing to others. She is generally easygoing and the first to go without so that someone else’s needs can be met, but she craves her security and at the core of it all, that is me. I must admit that although my heart ached for my tearful babe, I was aware of feelings of irritation as well. Why must it be so hard? After all, she is not eight months old any more, she’s eight years old. Why is it that the rest of the free world can seemingly go to work, or on a date, or on a trip and their children seem to take it in stride, yet mine protest for days and leave puddles of tears in their wake? I need to put on my own oxygen mask sometimes. I need to be able to get away and nurture myself once in a while. Why must it be so hard?

I kept thinking back to Ainsworth’s Attachment Styles (all of those years of psychology school keep those ideas very close in my mind). Securely attached, isn’t that what I’m wanting here? Shouldn’t we have reached the point by now in which she is secure in the the idea of knowing that her mother is a safe base in a theoretical sense? Can’t this allow for more extended explorations out into the world by now, for her and for me?

I sat and pondered and ruminated a bit. I fiddled with my phone as the cab driver brought me farther from home and closer to adventure. Then I saw it, a message from my former graduate school. The director of one of my PhD. programs was retiring. He had been my dissertation advisor and had instructed me in several of my classes. I liked him a great deal, and he had taught me a lot. He had an easygoing nature that was comforting in the context of the stress of graduate school, and had provided positive feedback and words of encouragement when they were very much needed. He had mentored me and helped me find direction when I was struggling with decisions about my educational and career future. He watched with baited breath along with the rest of my committee as I presented the defense of my dissertation. I was nine months pregnant with Alina at the time, and ready to burst. He had been the first to shake my hand and call me “Doctor” when it was successfully completed. His was among the first emails that I had sent in the days that followed to explain that I was a bit delayed in making the suggested edits to my dissertation because I had gone into labor that night after completing the defense. He hooded me at the commencement ceremony several months later, and I pointed out my two girls in the stadium crowd to him before ducking out to nurse my baby girl while donning my full regalia. He was leaving.

Mind you it had been many years since I had seen or spoken with my advisor, but as I read that message in the cab, it didn’t matter. There had been a security in knowing that he was there, always where I expected him to be just in case I needed him. The reality is that I still might need him. It has been highly unusual for me to have taken this career break. I suspect that it is not the traditional path to complete one’s PhD. and then opt to be a stay-at-home parent for years before entering the workforce, but that’s the road I’ve traveled. When it comes time for me to revisit my career, I will need letters of recommendation from those who can speak to the quality of my work, my mind, my training, and they’re all going away. Retirement, health challenges, moving elsewhere and losing touch….my advisor was the last of the core group of faculty who really knew me and my work.

Here I was, a forty year-old woman in the back of a cab having heart palpitations because my advisor was going away and I might really miss him. I might need him and he wouldn’t be there. The irony of my situation was not lost on me. Perhaps eight years is not too old to be rattled when your security walks out the door. Maybe forty isn’t either.

I continue to struggle with finding my place and finding a place for my family in a society that seems to emphasize independence for young children and career advancement for adults as much as ours does. I am not sure that I understand how to reconcile those goals with the needs of my kids. I’m not sure which side of the independence/attachment coin to favor; when to gently push for one and when to patiently nurture the other. I took my trip and had an amazing time. She missed me a lot. The days passed and I came home. Now I am going to write a letter expressing my gratitude to my advisor and wish him well in his retirement. I may add a request for a letter of recommendation in there too, just in case I need it someday.

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